LAS VEGAS (Nov. 10, 2009) — Last year's World Champion didn't exactly leave Las Vegas empty-handed.
After making the whistle for just the second time in seven rounds, Guilherme Marchi stopped a few feet short of the Hall of Champions as he exited the Thomas & Mack Center arena.
He bent down, grabbed a handful of cash and stuffed it into the right hand pocket of his protective vest.
Unfortunately, it was worthless "play money" that had fallen from the rafters above during the opening on the last day of the 2009 PBR World Finals.
Marchi could only laugh when he admitted, "I just put $1 million right here in my pocket."
It was not a lucrative 10 days for Marchi.
He came to Vegas trailing Kody Lostroh by less than 300 points. But by bucking off his first five bulls, Marchi finished third in the world standings — a staggering 4,719.25 points behind Lostroh.
"Everybody's vulnerable in this sport," said Ty Murray, a nine-time World Champion who knows what it's like to come up short of your goals after a season of working hard.
Not only was Marchi the defending World Champion, who rode nearly 75 percent of his bulls the year he won the title, but he came into the Finals this year having ridden 14 of his last 15 bulls.
Throughout the season, he's had consecutive streaks of eight in a row, and twice had ridden seven in a row. On the flip side, on three separate occasions he bucked off four in a row. However, no one could have imagined he'd set a season-high mark of five at the Finals.
In spite of the disappointment, he still finishes having covered over 70 percent of his bulls in the last 22 outs of 2009.
"I don't know if there's anyone as consistently good as he is," said two-time Champion Justin McBride.
"Like I said before, I give a lot of my heart and my blood and try my best all the time," Marchi said. "My head was good when I come here and try to win the title again, but that didn't happen this year."
No one but Marchi knows how it feels to finish ranked in the top three every year for a five-year period. Prior to his Championship season of 2008, he was second in the world for three years running.
And while he's been hurt a time or two in his career, he's never missed a substantial number of events due to injuries.
There is absolutely no reason to think he won't contend for a title next year.
He had the third-best riding percentage on the Built Ford Tough Series this year, and even that 60.4 percent is three points lower than his career average. He won two events this year and has done so 12 times since 2005, including a career-high five BFTS event wins in 2008.
"I believe I can ride my bulls," Marchi said. "I just didn't have a great Finals this year, but I still keep my head up. Next year we'll try to start the season strong."
At 27 years old, he's in the prime of his career and he has the capability of winning one or two more titles, if not more.
And before he decides to retire, "Guilherme will be the greatest bull rider the PBR has ever seen," McBride said.